From the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of East Timor, Don Barnby has lived a lifetime of service.
He joined the army when he was just 17 years old and celebrated his 21st birthday as a young SAS trooper on patrol in Vietnam’s Phuoc Tuy province in 1971.
“I didn’t realise anybody in the patrol knew,” he said, smiling. “I was a sig[naller], and it was the last day of a 12-day patrol.
“To send Morse [code], I used to put the poncho over my head to deaden the sound, because there was enemy in the area.
“I was tap, tap, tapping away, and I used to lift the poncho up, and give the message to the patrol commander, who was right there next to me, and then he’d give me something else to decode.
“When I finished the message, I lifted [the poncho] up, and I looked out … and all the men were turning in [to face me], and they whispered, very quietly, ‘happy birthday,’ and they all gave me a present.
“One guy had saved, in the dry season, a tin of peaches, and that means a lot if you are ever dehydrated. Another guy drew a little thing of me in his notebook sending Morse. Another guy gave me a tube of condensed milk, because when we were in the bush I used to suck on a tube of condensed milk. That was my ‘Linus blanket’. And another one gave me a carved stick … Unbelievable.”